The United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced today that it has received a contribution of $500 million over five years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.“We are extremely grateful to the Gates Foundation for this show of confidence in the Global Fund,” said Richard Feachem, the fund’s Executive Director. “The Global Fund has proven itself to be an effective way to reach millions of people with urgently-needed medicines and other services. This new commitment by the Gates Foundation will enable us to reach millions more.”The announcement comes the week before more than 25,000 researchers, health workers, advocates, and policymakers meet in Toronto to discuss progress and prospects in the fight against AIDS. Mr. Gates said the Global Fund “has an excellent track record,” and called for efforts “to support its continued success, which will save millions of lives.”Since its launch four years ago, the Global Fund has financed international efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. With grants from the Global Fund, 132 countries have begun to produce substantial results, including 544,000 people provided with life-extending HIV/AIDS treatment, more than 1.4 million people treated for TB, and more than 11 million bed nets distributed to protect children from malaria.“As we move from crisis management to a sustained AIDS response, we will continue to rely on the Global Fund as the best model to provide strategic and predictable funding,” said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “A fully-funded Global Fund is absolutely critical to the AIDS response. Without it, it will be difficult to turn all of the good ideas and strategic plans into reality on the ground.”The Gates Foundation grant is structured so that $100 million will be provided each year from 2006 through 2010. The contributions for 2006 and 2007 will be available to support the Global Fund’s sixth round of financing, which is slated to be approved by its board in November.Today’s grant brings the Gates Foundation’s total support for the Global Fund to $650 million. The foundation pledged $100 million in 2001 and an additional $50 million in 2004.Proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001, the Global Fund is a unique international public-private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing funds to fight the three diseases by strengthening health systems and paying for drugs, diagnostics, mosquito nets and other commodities.